‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ Movie Review: Heartfelt Camp Returns
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, sequel to the jukebox musical film Mamma Mia!, hit theaters on July 20, 2018, ten years to the week that the original film premiered. Mamma Mia!, based on the 1999 Broadway musical of the same name, grossed $615.7 million worldwide and became the highest grossing live-action musical of all time until it was surpassed by Bill Condon‘s Beauty and the Beast in 2017. The sequel is also a prequel, as the main events take place five years after the original film while featuring flashbacks to 1979, when a young Donna arrived on the Greek island of Kalokairi and met Sophie’s three possible fathers.
In the present, Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) has taken over her mother’s hotel, renovated it, and is painstakingly preparing for the grand reopening. She struggles with the decision not to invite her absentee grandmother and the fact that her husband and two of her three fathers are unable to attend the party. Her mother’s best friends Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) return to Kalokairi to support Sophie in both her business endeavor and her grief over a recent tragedy. Sophie’s journey with the hotel, her love life, and her family help her to understand her mother in a way that she never has before. Mamma Mia! veterans Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Dominic Cooper and Meryl Streep all return to reprise their roles. While Streep has a smaller role in the sequel, she still manages to have just as large of an impact as she did in the original film.
In 1979, a young Donna Sheridan has graduated as Valedictorian at Oxford and is ready to see the world. “There’s an island, Kalokairi. People used to think if you sailed on from there you’d fall off the edge of the world. That sounds like the place for me,” Donna tells a young Harry. Lily James brings both talent and charm to the role of young Donna and manages to fill the enormous shoes of Streep. James’ Donna is a carefree adventurer — kind and full of life, but with a spine of steel. It is easy to see how Sam, Bill and Harry all fell in love with her so quickly and how she evolved into the Donna played by Streep.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again includes the classic ABBA hits that didn’t make it into the first film, along with some reprises of the 2008 film’s numbers. Audiences who loved the camp, flashy choreography and feel-good attitude of the first movie will love the sequel. Those who are expecting an Academy Award winning film are sure to be disappointed. Neither Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again nor its predecessor claim to be anything more than A-list actors having fun with the concept of musical theatre and 70s Swedish pop hits. The Mamma Mia! films are not made for awards, they’re made so that you can dance, jive and have the time of your life.
While it would have been wonderful to see all of the original cast members have larger roles in the sequel, the new cast members all bring something memorable to the table. Jessica Keenan Wyne and Alexa Davies were perfectly cast as young Tanya and young Rosie, respectively. They not only looked the part, but embodied the roles in exactly the same vein as Baranski and Walters. Even Keenan Wynn’s voice and diction matches Baranski’s perfectly. Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan are also incredibly lovable as the younger versions of Sam, Bill and Harry. Cher is, of course, stellar in her small but memorable role as Sophie’s grandmother, Ruby. She had so much fun working on the film that she has decided to release her own cover album of ABBA songs.
While Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has so far received mixed reviews from critics, the film has already grossed $96.3 million worldwide. It is also outperforming its predecessor on Rotten Tomatoes. While Mamma Mia! only has a score of 54%, the sequel is already rated at 80%.
The film is both fun and heartfelt. While the original has its emotional moments — “Slipping Through My Fingers” is usually able to draw a few tears from viewers — the sequel really takes advantage of the gravitas of certain plot points. The film pulls at heartstrings throughout, but the most moving scene is the song “My Love, My Life” which is performed by Seyfried, James and Streep. Be sure to bring some tissues, but don’t let that worry you. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is uplifting and a reminder to celebrate life, love and family.